Gadugi. Though only a few syllables in Cherokee, it carries within its vocalization a value system centered around people becoming one with each other and helping each other. It is a recognition that we are more than just individuals burning time on a spinning planet in the middle of nothing. Rather to speak of gadugi is to feel the connection we have as members of a community and, in that connection, strive to help each other according to what is best for the other.
Echoes of the Cherokee’s gadugi can be found in the instructions of the Creator for the people Israel to practice a year of rest every seven years. Similar to the Sabbath day which happened each week, the Sabbath year was a time of rest in which the people were told by the Creator not to sow their fields or prune their vineyards (Lev 25:1-7). Rather they were to give the land rest in remembrance of the seventh day of creation when the Creator rested. The food that was to be eaten that year by the people, their livestock, and the wild animals was to be not from plowed lands, but from the natural produce grown by a land in rest (Lev 25:7).
Though we might forget about it, the Creator made a covenant with the land, plants, and animals (Gen 9:10, 12, 15, 16, 17) just like he did with humanity. In fact, humanity is part of nature as we are all interconnected though relationship with each other. Hence to observe a Sabbath year would be to place yourself at the mercy of nature and the Provider. It would be to practice a type of gadugi in which our non-human relatives help feed us as we walk through a time of individual and community purification and soul seeking.
After seven such purifying years, the people would celebrate a Year of Jubilee in which liberty was proclaimed nationwide and each person returned to their ancestral home (Lev 25:8-10). The land was to rest for a second year in row while all debts were forgiven, slaves of Hebrew blood were set free (others, sadly, stayed in captivity), and families throughout the nation gave away the property that they had acquired over the years to the families who were originally granted the land by the Creator (Lev 25:11-55).
In following these instructions, the people of Israel would be acting out gadugi in that they would be helping each other while remembering their own interconnectedness. The outcast would be able to return home with debts forgiven. Those in slavery would find freedom along with access to resources to change their family’s future. The wealthy would be given the chance to stave off the destination of their soul that comes through unchecked growth and greed by having the opportunity to give away that which they have acquired. The land, plants, and animals would be able to show their gadugi to the people while the people showed gratitude to the land from which they came.
Though the original Year of Jubilee was given by the Provider to a people group many years removed from us, I feel that the celebration is still valuable. We need to be reminded just like the people of old that we belong to a community beyond ourselves (gadugi). We need to have a check on our own greed and desire to accumulate material things. We need to remember that the land around us is living, breathing, and working to keep up with us. We all need rest. We all need time to stop and reflect upon our interconnectedness while giving glory to our Creator/Provider. We are all in need of a year of Jubilee.